Fewer people testing positive for meth and cocaine

Quest Diagnostics releases 2007 figuresQuest Diagnostics, the nation’s leading provider of employee drug testing services, reported a 22 percent drop in the number of U.S. workers and job applicants testing positive for methamphetamine last year. The percentage of positive tests for cocaine fell 19 percent in the same period—the largest single-year decline since 1997, the company reported.Overall, drug test positives were at an all-time low (see chart). The company said 3.8 percent of employees had tested positive for drug use in 2007, compared to a high of 13.6 in 1988. Quest Diagnostics based its conclusions on a summary of results from more than 8 million workplace drug tests the company conducted in 2007. The data include pre-employment, random, and for-cause testing. The primary test population included federally mandated testing of “safety-sensitive” workers such as pilots, truck drivers, and employees at nuclear power plantsIt is not immediately clear what conclusions can be drawn from the Quest Drug Testing Index. Do the results indicate a falloff of stimulant use, or are they a reflection of scarcities of supply? The DEA was quick to jump in and claim the latter: “The fact that America’s workers are using cocaine and methamphetamine at some of the lowest levels in years is further evidence of the tremendous success that law enforcement is having at impacting the nation’s illicit drug supply,” Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Acting Administrator Michele Leonhard said in a press release.In the same press release, Dr. Barry Sample of Quest Diagnostics, citing figures that show a 5 percent increase in the use of all forms of amphetamines last year, said: “Although some may conclude that there is a reduced availability for methamphetamine, the fact that our data show an increase in amphetamines suggests that some workers might be replacing one stimulant drug for another in the larger drug class of amphetamines.” It is also unclear whether or not the lower numbers reflect greater employee awareness of drug testing, and greater knowledge of methods for finessing the testing system, such as a crash course of abstinence when testing is considered likely.Moreover, drug testing remains a controversial practice. Critics maintain that the costs of drug testing far exceed the benefits of identifying a very small percentage of workers with testing procedures that are not always and inevitably reliable.In a review of a report on drug testing by the National Academy of Sciences in 1999, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) concluded: “There is as yet no conclusive evidence from properly controlled studies that employment drug testing programs widely discourage drug use or encourage rehabilitation.” According to the ACLU, the federal government spends more than $77,000 dollars for each positive drug test, when overall costs of the federal government’s drug testing program are taken into consideration.Graphics Credit: Market Wire (Source: Addiction Inbox)

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